Terrorist Safe Havens
Terrorists operate without regard to national boundaries. To effectively counter terrorists, we are working to strengthen our regional and transnational partnerships. Denying safe haven is essential for undermining terrorists’ capacity to operate effectively and is a central goal of U.S. counterterrorism strategy.
Terrorist safe havens are defined in this report as ungoverned, under-governed, or ill-governed areas of a country and non-physical areas where terrorists that constitute a threat to U.S. national security interests are able to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, and operate in relative security because of inadequate governance capacity, political will, or both. Physical safe havens provide security for terrorist leaders, allowing them to plan acts of terrorism around the world.
Global communications and financial systems, especially those created by electronic infrastructure such as the internet, global media, and unregulated economic activity, further allow terrorists to carry out activities, particularly the dissemination of propaganda and misinformation, without the need for a physical safe haven. These “virtual” havens are difficult to track, difficult to control, and are not based in any particular state. This part of the report, however, will not address virtual safe havens, and will focus instead on physical safe havens.
Somalia. A small number of al-Qa’ida (AQ) operatives remained in East Africa, particularly Somalia, where they posed a serious threat to U.S. and allied interests in the region. These elements were disrupted in late 2006 and early 2007 as a result of Ethiopian military actions and again by the death of AQ operative Saleh Nabhan in September 2009. Somalia remained a concern given the country’s long, unguarded coastline, porous borders, continued political instability, and proximity to the Arabian Peninsula, all of which provide opportunities for terrorist transit and/or safe haven and increased the regional threat level. AQ remains likely to make common cause with Somali extremists, most notably al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab has expanded its area of control during its protracted insurgency against the Transitional Federal Government and particularly since the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces in early 2009. The group controlled most of southern Somalia at year’s end.
The Trans-Sahara. The primary terrorist threat in this region was al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM was based primarily in northeastern Algeria but factions also operated from a safe haven in northern Mali, from which they transited areas of the Maghreb and Sahel, especially Mali, Niger, and Mauritania. AQIM continued to conduct small scale ambushes and attacks on Algerian security forces in northeastern Algeria, but in 2009 the group was not able to conduct the “spectacular” attacks that were more common a few years ago such as their bombing of the UN and Algerian government buildings. AQIM factions in northern Mali used the safe haven to conduct kidnappings for ransom and murder of Western hostages and to conduct limited attacks on Malian and Mauritanian security personnel. AQIM derived financial support from the ransoms it collected, which were used to sustain the organization and plan further terrorist operations. AQIM routinely demanded the release of their operatives in custody in the region and elsewhere as a condition of release of hostages. Regional governments sought to take steps to counter AQIM operations, but there was a need for foreign assistance in the form of law enforcement and military capacity building in order to do so.
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
The Sulu/Sulawesi Seas Littoral. In Southeast Asia, the terrorist organizations Jemaah Islamiya (JI) and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have sought safe haven in the vicinity of the Sulawesi Sea and the Sulu Archipelago, which encompasses the maritime boundaries of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The area’s thousands of islands make it a difficult region for authorities to monitor, while a range of licit and illicit activities that occur there – worker migration, tourism, and trade, for example – pose another challenge to identifying and countering the terrorist threat. Although Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have improved their efforts to control their shared maritime boundaries, the expanse nevertheless remains difficult to control. Surveillance is improved but remains partial at best, and traditional smuggling and piracy groups have provided an effective cover for terrorist activities, such as movement of personnel, equipment, and funds.
The Southern Philippines. Terrorist operatives have sought safe haven in areas of the southern Philippines, specifically in the Sulu archipelago and Mindanao. Philippine government control and the rule of law in this area is weak due to rugged terrain, poverty, and local Muslim minority resentment of central governmental policies. In addition to Jemaah Islamiya (JI) fugitives and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists, the New People’s Army and Rajah Solaiman Movement also operated in the southern Philippines.
THE MIDDLE EAST
Iraq. Iraq was not a terrorist safe haven in 2009, but terrorists, including Sunni groups like al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), and Ansar al-Islam (AI), as well as Shia extremists and other groups, viewed Iraq as a potential safe haven. Together, U. S. and Iraqi security forces continued to make progress against these groups. The significant reduction in the number of security incidents in Iraq that began in the last half of 2007 continued through 2009, with a steady downward trend in numbers of civilian casualties, enemy attacks, and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks.
AQI, although still dangerous, experienced the defection of members, lost key mobilization areas, suffered disruption of support infrastructure and funding, and was forced to change targeting priorities. A number of factors have contributed to the substantial degradation of AQI. The alliance of convenience and mutual exploitation between AQI and many Sunni populations has deteriorated. The Baghdad Security Plan, initiated in February 2007, along with assistance from primarily Sunni tribal and local groups, has succeeded in reducing violence to late 2005 levels and disrupted and diminished AQI infrastructure, driving some surviving AQI fighters from Baghdad and Anbar into the northern Iraqi provinces of Ninawa, Diyala, and Salah ad Din. New initiatives with tribal and local leaders in Iraq have led Sunni tribes and local citizens to reject AQI and its extremist ideology. The continued growth, professionalism, and improved capabilities of the Iraqi forces have increased their effectiveness in rooting out terrorist cells. Iraqis in Baghdad, Anbar and Diyala Provinces, and elsewhere have turned against AQI and were cooperating with the Iraqi government and Coalition Forces to defeat it.
Northern Iraq. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) maintained an active presence in northern Iraq, from which it coordinated attacks into Turkey, primarily against Turkish security forces, local officials and villagers who opposed the organization. In October, the Turkish Parliament overwhelmingly voted to extend the authorization for cross-border military operations against PKK encampments in northern Iraq. Iraq, Turkey, and the United States continued their formal trilateral security dialogue as one element of ongoing cooperative efforts to counter the PKK. Iraqi leaders, including those from the Kurdistan Regional Government, continued to publicly state that the PKK was a terrorist organization that would not be tolerated in Iraq. Turkish and Iraqi leaders signed a counterterrorism agreement in October.
Lebanon. Hizballah remained the most prominent and powerful terrorist group in Lebanon, with deep roots among Lebanon’s large Shia community,, which comprises at least one third of Lebanon’s population. The Lebanese government continued to recognize Hizballah, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, as a legitimate “resistance group” and political party. Hizballah maintained offices in Beirut and military-style bases elsewhere in the country and was represented by elected deputies in parliament. (See Chapter 3, State Sponsors of Terrorism, for information on Iran and Syria, which provided safe haven to Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist groups and were used as safe havens by AQ-linked operatives and groups.)
AQ associated extremists also operated within the country, though their presence was small compared to that of Palestinian groups operating in Palestinian refugee camps who were not aligned with AQ. The camps are officially controlled by the Lebanese government. While the Lebanese Armed Forces do not have a day-to-day presence in the camps, they have at times conducted operations in the camps to combat terrorist threats.
Yemen. The security situation in Yemen continued to deteriorate. As Saudi security forces have clamped down on terrorism and foreign fighters have returned from Afghanistan and Pakistan, Yemen’s porous borders have allowed many terrorists to seek safe haven within Yemen. Al-Qa’ida in Yemen (AQY) announced its merger with al-Qa’ida (AQ) elements in Saudi Arabia in January 2009, creating al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The creation of AQAP coincided with fewer attacks within Yemen, possibly due to the desire of its leadership to use Yemen as a safe haven for planning of future attacks and recruitment because the central government lacks a strong presence in much of the country.
The absence of effective counterterrorism legislation contributed to Yemen’s appeal as a safe haven and potential base of operations for terrorists. The Yemeni government’s response to the terrorist threat was intermittent, and its ability to pursue and prosecute suspected terrorists remained weak for most of the year due to a number of shortcomings, including the stalling of draft counterterrorism in Parliament. The government’s response improved dramatically in December with security forces taking strong action against a number of terrorist cells. Even with this turn of events, the government was often distracted by the “Sixth War” of the Houthi rebellion in the Sa’ada governorate in the north of the country and political unrest in southern Yemen.
Afghanistan. The Government of Afghanistan, in concert with the International Security Assistance Force and the international community, continued its efforts to eliminate terrorist safe havens and build security, particularly in the country’s south and east where the main Taliban-based insurgents threatened stability. Many insurgent groups, including Taliban elements, the Haqqani Network, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, al-Qa’ida (AQ), and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, continued to use territory across the border in Pakistan as a base from which to plot and launch attacks within Afghanistan and beyond. Narcotics trafficking, poppy cultivation, and criminal networks were particularly prevalent, constituting a significant source of funding for the insurgency as well as fueling corruption within Afghanistan. AQ leadership in Pakistan maintained its support to militants conducting attacks in Afghanistan and provided funding, training, and personnel to facilitate terrorist and insurgent operations. Anti-Coalition organizations continued to operate in coordination with AQ, Taliban, and other insurgent groups, primarily in the east.
Pakistan. Despite increased efforts by Pakistani security forces, al-Qa’ida (AQ) terrorists, Afghan militants, foreign insurgents, and Pakistani militants continued to find safe haven in portions of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and Baluchistan. AQ and other groups such as the Haqqani Network used the FATA to launch attacks in Afghanistan, plan operations worldwide, train, recruit, and disseminate propaganda. The Pakistani Taliban (under the umbrella moniker Tehrik-e-Taliban or TTP) also used the FATA to plan attacks against the civilian and military targets across Pakistan. Outside the FATA, the Quetta-based Afghan Taliban and separate insurgent organizations such as Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin used the areas in Baluchistan and the NWFP for safe haven. Islamist Deobandi groups and many local tribesmen in the FATA and the NWFP continued to resist the government’s efforts to improve governance and administrative control. Despite the August death of the Pakistani Taliban’s leader Baitullah Mehsud and Pakistani military operations throughout the FATA and NWFP, the Pakistani Taliban, AQ, and other extremist groups remained dangerous foes to Pakistan and the international community.
Despite international condemnation for its November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LT) continued to plan regional operations from within Pakistan. LT is an extremely capable terrorist organization with a sophisticated regional network. It continued to view American interests as legitimate targets. While the Government of Pakistan has banned LT, it needs to take further action against this group and its front organizations, which find safe haven within Pakistan.
Colombia’s borders with Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, and Brazil include rough terrain and dense forest cover. These conditions, coupled with low population densities and historically weak government presence, create potential safe havens for insurgent and terrorist groups, particularly the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The FARC, retreating in the face of Colombian military pressures, thus operated with relative ease along the fringes of Colombia’s borders, and also uses areas in neighboring countries along the border to rest and regroup, procure supplies, and stage and train for terrorist attacks with varying degrees of success. The FARC elements in these border regions often engaged the local population in direct and indirect ways, including recruitment and logistical assistance. This appeared to be less so in Brazil and Peru where potential safe havens were addressed by stronger government responses. Ecuador and Panama have responded with a mix of containment and non-confrontation with Colombian narco-terrorist groups, although some confrontations do occur depending on local decisions and cross-border relations
Venezuela. Corruption within the Venezuelan government and military, ideological ties with the FARC, and weak international counternarcotics cooperation have fueled a permissive operating environment for narco-traffickers. Other than some limited activities, such as the bombing of remote dirt airstrips on the border, there is little evidence that the government of Venezuela is moving to improve this situation in the near future. The FARC, as well as Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), regularly used Venezuelan territory to rest and regroup, engage in narcotics trafficking, as well as to extort protection money and kidnap Venezuelans to finance their operations.
The Tri-Border Area (Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay). No corroborated information showed that Hizballah, HAMAS, or other Islamic extremist groups used the Tri-Border Area (TBA) for military-type training or planning of terrorist operations, but the United States remained concerned that these groups use the region as a safe haven to raise funds. Suspected supporters of Islamic terrorist groups, including Hizballah, take advantage of loosely regulated territory and the proximity of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay and Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil to participate in a wide range of illicit activities and to solicit donations from within the sizable Muslim communities in the region. The Argentine, Brazilian, and Paraguayan governments have long been concerned with arms and drugs smuggling, document fraud, money laundering, trafficking in persons, and the manufacture and movement of contraband goods through the TBA. Concerns about the region moved the three governments to invite the United States to participate in the Three Plus One Group on Tri-Border Area Security, which focuses on practical steps to strengthen financial and border controls and enhance law enforcement and intelligence sharing. Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay have made notable strides in launching initiatives to strengthen law enforcement institutions and cooperation, including developing financial intelligence units, broadening border security cooperation, augmenting information sharing among prosecutors responsible for counterterrorism cases, and establishing trade transparency units.
5.1.b. STRATEGIES, TACTICS, AND TOOLS FOR DISRUPTING OR ELIMINATING SAFE HAVENS
The Regional Strategic Initiative. Terrorists operate without regard to national boundaries. To effectively counter terrorists, we are working to strengthen our regional and transnational partnerships and to increasingly operate in a regional context. Denying safe haven plays a major role in undermining terrorists’ capacity to operate effectively and forms a key element of U.S. counterterrorism strategy. For this reason, the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism (S/CT) has developed the Regional Strategic Initiative (RSI) in key terrorist theaters of operation to collectively assess the threat, pool resources, and devise collaborative strategies, action plans, and policy recommendations. To implement these strategies, U.S. Ambassadors lead interagency Country Teams that recommend initiatives using all instruments of U.S. statecraft to help host nations understand the threat, and strengthen their political will and capacity to counter it. The RSI promotes cooperation between our counterterrorism partners; for example, between Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines as they confront terrorist transit across the Sulawesi Sea; or among Mauritania, Algeria, Morocco, Niger, Chad, and Mali, to counter al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Terrorists are highly adaptable and agile adversaries. Defeating them requires both centralized coordination and field authority. Resources and responses must be applied in a rapid, flexible, and focused manner. The RSI helps achieve this coordinated approach. In 2009, RSI groups were in place for South East Asia, Iraq and its neighbors, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Western Mediterranean, East Africa, the Trans-Sahara, South Asia, and Latin America.
COUNTERING TERRORISM ON THE ECONOMIC FRONT
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States has acted to block funding of terrorists and their supporters, and to promote international cooperation against them. On September 23, 2001, President George W. Bush signed E.O. 13224, giving the United States a powerful tool to impede terrorist funding. This Executive Order (EO) provides a means to disrupt the financial support networks for terrorists and terrorist organizations by authorizing the U.S. government to designate and block the assets of foreign individuals and entities that commit, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism. The EO prohibits transactions between U.S. persons and designated individuals and entities. In addition, because of the breadth of the financial base of foreign terrorists, the order authorizes the U.S. government to block the assets of individuals and entities that provide support, offer assistance to, or otherwise associate with designated terrorists and terrorist organizations. The order also covers their subsidiaries, front organizations, agents, and associates.
The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury, has the authority to designate groups as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), pursuant to Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended. These designations play a critical role in U.S. counterterrorism efforts and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business. As a consequence of such a designation, it is unlawful for U.S. citizens or any persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to provide material support or resources to a designated FTO. U.S. financial institutions are also required to freeze the funds of designated FTOs.
In 2009, the following designations were made under E.O. 13224:
REWARDS FOR JUSTICE: The Rewards for Justice Program(RFJ), managed by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, is one of the U.S. government’s most valuable tools for collecting critical information on terrorist leaders and others who seek to harm U.S. interests. Through the RFJ program, the Secretary of State offers and pays rewards for information that prevents or successfully resolves an act of international terrorism against U.S. persons or property. Reward offers of up to US$ 25 million have been authorized for information leading to the capture of Usama bin Ladin and other key terrorist leaders. Since its inception in 1984, RFJ has paid over US$ 82 million to more than 50 people who provided credible information. In 2009, the Rewards for Justice website carried information in 27 languages.
Also in 2009, the RFJ program added the following five individuals to its Wanted for Terrorism list:
All of these reward offerings are listed in greater detail on www.rewardsforjustice.net.
MULTILATERAL EFFORTS TO COUNTER TERRORISM
International cooperation remained essential to effectively track funding, freeze assets, disrupt planning, and prevent future attacks, as well as to investigate, capture, and prosecute terrorists.
Consequently, the United States worked hard to reinvigorate alliances around the world and deepen its engagement in multilateral fora concerned with counterterrorism at the United Nations and its specialized agencies, and at regional organizations worldwide. The net effect of this work has included increasing the pool of donors for capacity building; strengthening international resolve against terrorism; and also strengthening global norms so that countries jointly do a better job to build security.
Throughout the year, for example, the United States worked closely with partners in many multilateral fora to combat and prevent the financing of terrorism, including the UN Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) and the al-Qa’ida and Taliban Sanctions Committee; the UN’s Counterterrorism Implementation Task Force; the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units; the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and FATF-style regional bodies; the Group of Eight’s (G8) Counterterrorism Action Group (CTAG); and various international financial institutions. In addition, the United States continued its regular dialogue on terrorist financing with the European Union (EU). Since its launch in September 2004, the dialogue has served as a framework for exchanges to promote information sharing and cooperation on joint issues of concern and on technical assistance issues.
The United States and its partners worked through these organizations to establish and promote best practices, build the counterterrorism and law enforcement capabilities of “weak but willing” states, and to institutionalize global counterterrorism norms and standards. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have pledged to provide countries with training to increase their capacity to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
The United Nations (UN). Sustained and strategic engagement at the UN on counterterrorism issues is a priority for the United States for a number of reasons. In most parts of the world, it is easier to convince a country to take action if one can point to a UN resolution or treaty calling for such action, rather than relying exclusively on bilateral or informal group pressure. In addition, the UN has unique expertise it can bring to bear in a range of counterterrorism capacity building fields, which can supplement U.S.-led initiatives. Working through UN agencies and programs can offer the United States the platform to help build counterterrorism coalitions and to overcome the stigma attached to bilateral relations between the United States and certain states. Such an approach may not only be more cost-effective, as existing expertise and programs can be leveraged, but also be viewed as more politically acceptable in the recipient country and thus more likely to be implemented. With these comparative advantages in mind, the United States engaged with a wide range of UN actors on counterterrorism in 2009, including the three counterterrorism related committees of the Security Council: the Counter-Terrorism Committee; the 1267 Committee; and the 1540 Committee.
The Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) was established by Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1373 after September 11, 2001, with the goal of monitoring global efforts to implement the ability of UN member states to combat terrorism. The work of the CTC is supported by the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED), a staff body of some 20 counterterrorism experts. Among other things, CTED seeks to facilitate the delivery of capacity building and other technical assistance to member states, and to promote closer cooperation and coordination with international, regional, and sub-regional organizations. It also conducts visits to member states to assess the implementation of Resolution 1373. In 2009, CTED visited eight states: Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Ghana, Libya, New Zealand, Oman, and Uzbekistan. It also organized a number of practical capacity building workshops in 2009, including one for South Asian prosecutors and police (in Bangladesh) and for Pakistani parliamentarians focusing on a draft anti-money laundering law. In September 2009, the committee initiated a series of thematic discussions of all major areas of implementation of resolution 1373 (2001), including issues related to border security, arms trafficking, law enforcement, and best practices in the implementation of Resolution 1624 (2005).
The United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee. The Security Council imposed sanctions against the Taliban in November 1999 for its support of Usama bin Ladin. The sanctions - a travel ban, arms embargo, and assets freeze - have been modified and strengthened by subsequent resolutions, including 1333 (2000), 1390 (2002), 1455 (2003), 1526 (2004), 1617 (2005), 1735 (2006), 1822 (2008), and 1904 (2009), so that the sanctions measures now apply to individuals and entities associated with al-Qa’ida, Usama bin Ladin, and/or the Taliban wherever located. On December 19, 2009, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1904, which further strengthens procedures to enhance fairness and transparency in the committee’s listing and delisting processes. The resolution also calls on the 192 U.N. member states to provide as much information as possible when proposing a new entry for the 1267 Consolidated List, and requires the committee to approve narrative summaries of reason for listing simultaneous to approving names for sanctions.
To ensure that current listings remain appropriate, the sanctions committee is implementing pursuant to UNSCR 1822 a review of all 488 individuals and entities on the list at the time of the adoption of that resolution (June 30, 2008), which mandated the committee complete this review by June 30, 2010. Resolution 1904 further calls for the committee to conduct subsequent reviews every three years, and to commence special annual reviews with an eye to removing people who have died or cannot be adequately identified from the list. The resolution also requested the Secretary-General, in close consultation with the committee, appoint an ombudsperson to assist the committee in its review of petitions received by or on behalf of individuals and entities seeking removal from the Consolidated List.
The United Nations Security Council 1540 Committee on non-proliferation was established after the adoption of Resolution 1540 “that all States shall refrain from providing any form of support to non-State actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and their means of delivery.” The United States co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 1810, which extended the work of the 1540 Committee for three years until April 2011.
The Counterterrorism Implementation Task Force, which now includes 24 UN entities across the UN system and Interpol, was established by the Secretary-General in 2005 to improve the coordination and cooperation among the different entities involved in countering terrorism. It played a key role in the formulation of the Secretary-General’s April 2006 report, which served as the basis for the UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy, which was agreed to by all UN member states in September 2006. Since the strategy’s adoption, the Task Force has become the focal point for UN efforts to support implementation of the global framework, which includes four pillars: 1) measures to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; 2) measures to prevent and combat terrorism; 3) measures to build states’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism; and 4) measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis of the fight against terrorism.
In December 2009, the United States voted in favor of a General Assembly resolution that provided the Task Force with the necessary UN regular budget funding to support the creation of seven positions in the UN Secretariat to support the group’s work. Until this point, the Task Force’s work was funded exclusively by voluntary contributions from individual UN member states, including the United States.
The members of the Task Force comprise those UN offices and specialized agencies whose ongoing work contributes to global counterterrorism efforts.
In 2009, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) instituted procedures on the control and screening of liquids in passenger carry-on baggage and providing specifications for the manufacture of tamper-evident duty free bags. In cooperation with member state authorities and industry, it helped create a harmonized, international list of items prohibited from aircraft. ICAO also continued the second cycle of its Universal Security Audit Program’s security assessments of airports around the globe.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC’s) Terrorism Prevention Branch and Global Programme Against Money Laundering continued to provide assistance to countries in the legal and related aspects of counterterrorism. UNODC’s mandate in the area of counterterrorism is specifically focused on building the legal framework necessary for member states to become party to and implement the international counterterrorism conventions and protocols. The Terrorism Prevention Branch also focused on strengthening the capacity of the national criminal justice systems to apply the provisions of these instruments in compliance with the principles of rule of law.
International organized crime networks and members can provide support to terrorist organizations and facilitate their activities. The UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) is the main international instrument to counter international organized crime. The UNODC supports member states’ implementation of the UNTOC and its Protocols, specifically the Protocol on Human Smuggling, and thereby contributed to the global efforts to counter terrorism through the provision of technical assistance and training, and by strengthening countries’ legal systems and law enforcement and border control capabilities. Building the capacity of countries to control their borders is critical for reducing terrorist mobility.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continued to implement its Nuclear Security Plan (2006-2009) for combating the threat of terrorism involving nuclear and other radioactive material. IAEA promoted its member states’ ratification and implementation of international instruments relating to nuclear security, including the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, and the non-binding IAEA Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources. The IAEA Nuclear Security Series is a framework of guidance documents designed to help states establish a coherent nuclear security infrastructure.
The United States has been working in the IAEA to enhance security over vulnerable nuclear and other radioactive materials within the IAEA’s 144 member states to reduce the risk that such materials could be used in a terrorist event.
Group of Eight (G8) Counterterrorism Actions. The G8, composed of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, continued to develop and promote effective counterterrorism standards and best practices throughout the year.
Italy, who held the G8 presidency, hosted the 2009 annual G8 Summit in L’Aquila where G8 Leaders committed to take action on a range of counterterrorism issues, including:
G8 Leaders condemned all terrorist acts as criminal and unjustifiable, particularly the tactics of suicide bombings, the recruitment of the young or disadvantaged to carry out such bombings, and hostage taking.
Counterterrorism Action Group (CTAG). At the June 2003 Evian Summit, G8 Leaders adopted a plan to build political will and capacity to combat terrorism globally, and established the Counterterrorism Action Group (CTAG) to implement this plan. CTAG supports the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee’s efforts to monitor and promote implementation of UNSCR 1373 by developing an active forum for donors to coordinate counterterrorism cooperation with, and assistance to, third countries. It promotes counterterrorism by prioritizing needs and targeting and coordinating assistance to expand counterterrorism capacity in recipient countries; and encourages all countries to meet their obligations under UNSCR 1373 and, for states party to them, the 13 international counterterrorism conventions and protocols.
Under the leadership of the rotating G8 presidency, CTAG meets two times per year with the active participation of G8 member states, the European Commission, and other donor countries and organizations. Coordination meetings hosted by the local embassy of the G8 presidency are also held among CTAG members’ diplomatic missions in recipient countries, and in coordination with the UN Counterterrorism Executive Directorate’s (CTED) country visits. Italy, as G8 president, convened several CTAG meetings in New York and chaired 18 local CTAG meetings. In November 2009, Italy launched discussions on the reform and revitalization of CTAG.
Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and FATF-Style Regional Bodies (FSRBs). The United States continued to play a strong role in developing new initiatives within FATF, and within FATF-Style Regional Bodies, to meet evolving anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing threats. In 2009, the United States delegation continued its contributions to the Plenary on issues of policy as well as to the Working Groups on issues of implementation. The United States continued its co-chair role, with Italy, on the International Cooperation Review Group to address jurisdictional anti-money laundering/counterterrorism financing (AML/CTF) systemic deficiencies and threats. The United States also participated in major FATF work comprising examination, negotiation, and implementation of Special Special Recommendation IX (SRIX) on cash couriers for supranational entities. This included spearheading a best practices paper for SRIX implementation, examination of proliferation finance, and ongoing discussion of making the FATF follow-up process more effective, including the processes of the FATF-style regional bodies in the FATF network. In 2009, additional work contributed by the United States included evaluation of selected recommendations and criteria, outreach to the private sector, public-private partnerships, development of guidance for non-financial businesses and professions, and participating in FATF mutual evaluations and Expert Review Groups. The United States has been focusing FATF’s attention on trade-based money laundering and terrorist financing, and in 2009 worked with the FATF on a typologies project on the exploitation of free trade zones in money laundering and terrorist financing. Throughout 2009, the United States promoted a Law Enforcement Working Group to better address AML/CFT issues specific to law enforcement, and was an active participant in projects on confiscation and corruption. The United States played a similar and equally active role in the FATF-Style Regional Bodies (FSRBs), supporting FSRB-executed training and other workshops and providing technical assistance not only to members, but to the Secretariats themselves. Additionally, the United States took part in Contact Groups, mutual evaluations, and Expert Review Groups, and provided advice with an eye to increasing the capacity and transparency of the Secretariats.
European Union (EU). The United States and the European Union (EU) cooperated closely on combating terrorism. In October 2009, the U.S. Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security, and EU Justice and Homes Affairs Ministers adopted a joint statement committing both sides to enhancing policy and operational cooperation in the areas of justice freedom and security. U.S. and EU leaders at the November 2009 Summit highlighted the Ministerial statement and other efforts to deepen counterterrorism cooperation. The EU Counterterrorism Coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, coordinated the counterterrorism work of the Council of the European Union, composed of representatives from all 27 EU Member States. De Kerchove participated in regular dialogues with U.S. counterterrorism officials.
The United States and EU have deepened cooperation in the area of domestic security, including reciprocally participating in each others’ domestic response exercises. The United States recently participated in the European Council’s review of its emergency and crisis coordination arrangements. The United States and EU continued to collaborate on techniques for preventing terrorist travel. U.S. experts have met with EU counterparts on a number of occasions to exchange lessons learned on the development of passenger prescreening systems, including the use of Passenger Name Records.
In September 2008, the European Court of Justice held that EU implementation of asset freezes required by the UN sanctions regime against al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and their associates, violated procedural and property rights enshrined in European Community law. The Court annulled the Regulation (insofar as it applied to the two plaintiffs), but gave the EU three months to revise it to rectify these defects. There are several other similar challenges to the EU’s implementation of counterterrorism sanctions pending before the European Court of Justice. EU officials continued to remedy issues raised in the September 2008 and other rulings, while preserving a strong counterterrorism effort that complies with UN obligations. In December 2009, the EU passed a new counterterrorism sanctions regulation, codifying many of the procedural changes that have been incorporated in response to evolving European jurisprudence.
EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers approved a change to the existing EU Framework Decision on Terrorism. Among other changes, the Ministers added incitement and terrorist training as criminal offences under the EU legal framework. The United States and the EU’s Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust) have improved cooperation and information exchange among investigators and prosecutors. Pursuant to the U.S.-Eurojust Cooperative Agreement, a U.S. National Liaison Prosecutor, resident in Brussels, assists with operational cases that include several EU member states and assists in mutual legal assistance or extradition issues involving member states. The United States and the EU completed ratification of the U.S.-EU Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance Agreements.
The United States and EU have established a roadmap toward mutual recognition between the EU Authorized Economic Operator provisions and the U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, which are based on a risk management approach to cargo security. A Secure Freight Initiative pilot project in Southampton, UK was concluded in 2008 and provided valuable lessons that will assist in determining how best to execute the 9/11 Implementation Act’s requirement for 100 percent scanning of maritime cargo containers.
The United States and EU organized an experts seminar in December 2008 on enhancing the control of explosives. The forum focused on two high-priority shared challenges: improvised liquid or “home-made” explosives and response issues. Discussions are underway to expand existing transatlantic cooperation on research and development to include security research. Responding to the terrorist use of explosives as a threat to aviation security, the European Commission, Directorate General for Transportation and Energy, recommended the restrictions on liquid and gels in carry-on luggage remain in effect beyond the current April 2010 deadline to allow for development and deployment of suitable detection technologies.
In October 2009, the United States and the EU concluded work on a common set of data privacy principles uniting their approaches to protecting personal data while processing and exchanging information, and agreed to move ahead with negotiation of a binding international agreement. The November 2009 U.S.-EU Summit welcomed the completion of this effort and agreement to move forward on a binding international agreement as a solid basis for our law enforcement authorities to enhance cooperation, while ensuring full protection for U.S. citizens. Despite this progress, EU concerns about privacy protection in the United States continue to present an operational and political obstacle to further collaboration in the area of information sharing.
The United States and the EU continued to cooperate on combating terrorist financing, including:
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The United States worked with the OSCE through its Action against Terrorism Unit (ATU) to encourage cooperation among OSCE participating states on counterterrorism-related issues by facilitating events and activities, including capacity-building assistance programs, training, and contingency-preparedness workshops. A comprehensive report by the Secretary General released in April highlighted the main areas of the OSCE’s work on counterterrorism and emphasized its multidimensional aspects, including democracy and human rights concerns and media freedom. The OSCE hosted a major conference in September on terrorist financing, bringing together financial and counterterrorism experts from across Eurasia to discuss areas for further collaboration. In October, a workshop, supported by Russia, highlighted the critical connection between a free and responsible media and efforts to counter terrorism, emphasizing the importance of information sharing and partnership between government and media. At a regional workshop in Malta in December, the OSCE continued its efforts to provide technical capacity-building assistance to help participating states detect and prevent the use of counterfeit travel documents.
The OSCE Athens Ministerial in December approved several decisions to support counterterrorism efforts: urging a more consolidated approach to transnational threats; outlining specific steps to support OSCE participating state implementation of UN legal counterterrorism instruments; and encouraging OSCE participating state adoption of the ICAO Public Key Directory to support greater travel document security. The evolving European security dialogue known as the Corfu Process includes a transnational threats component under which counterterrorism work remains prominent.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO leads International Security Assistance Force stability operations against insurgents in Afghanistan. NATO also conducts Operation Active Endeavor, a naval mission that aims to counter terrorism by monitoring Mediterranean maritime traffic. The Alliance is engaged in a far-reaching transformation of its forces and capabilities to better deter and defend against 21st century threats, including terrorism, and is working closely with partner countries and organizations to ensure interoperability of forces, thus enhancing security and broadening cooperation.
NATO adopted its Military Concept against Terrorism in 2002; fielded a Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear defense battalion in 2004; and established a special Terrorist Threat Intelligence Unit. Efforts were underway to enhance Allied protection against the potential attempts to disrupt critical infrastructure (energy, cyber) systems. Through NATO’s Defense Against Terrorism program, the Alliance is developing 10 cutting-edge technologies to protect troops and civilians against terrorist attacks.
In April 2009, at the NATO Summit in Strasbourg-Kehl, NATO leaders condemned all terrorist acts as unjustifiable and criminal, and deplored tactics such as suicide bombing and hostage taking; the recruitment of the young and disadvantaged to conduct terrorist activities; and terrorist abuse of freedoms inherent to democratic societies. Allies also committed to intensify efforts to deny terrorists access to weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. NATO’s 28 Allies and 22 Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council Partners have all submitted initial reports as called for by UN Security Council Resolution 1540. NATO is also examining ways to help strengthen NATO Allies’ and Partners’ implementation of UNSCR 1540 commitments.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). In January 2007, the Heads of State of the 10-member ASEAN, comprising Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, signed a new convention on counterterrorism cooperation. The new ASEAN treaty recognized the importance of having a global legal framework to combat terrorism, as established by the universal conventions on terrorism. The treaty further recognized that terrorism offenses such as hijacking, hostage-taking, and bombing are not political offenses, and terrorists cannot hide behind political justifications to evade justice.
Under the new convention, ASEAN members agreed to cooperate to prevent terrorist attacks, terrorist financing, and terrorist movement across national borders. They also agreed to cooperate to enhance intelligence exchanges, promote public participation in counterterrorism efforts, and strengthen preparedness for dealing with chemical, biological, and nuclear terrorism.
The United States worked closely with ASEAN to enhance counterterrorism cooperation. The United States actively participated in counterterrorism-related activities of the 27-member ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), including the annual meetings on counterterrorism and transnational crime. The United States has played a significant role in ARF’s Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) area of engagement. The United States developed the CTTC Work Plan, which is a comprehensive and coordinated strategy that focuses ARF efforts on three priority areas: biological terrorism, cybersecurity and cyberterrorism, and narcotics trafficking. The United States is also committed to working with ARF partners on transnational maritime security.
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). The 21 member economies of APEC (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam), are committed to creating a safe environment for the movement of goods, services, and people throughout the region. Since 2001, APEC has worked to secure the region’s economic, trade, investment, and financial systems from attack and/or abuse by terrorists. The APEC Counterterrorism Task Force was established in 2003 to coordinate implementation of leaders’ and ministers’ statements on counterterrorism and non-proliferation, promote information sharing, and develop counterterrorism capacity in the region. APEC also leverages its relationship with the private sector to promote public-private partnerships in counterterrorism and secure trade.
In 2009, APEC leaders’ recognized the importance of building capacity to counter terrorism and welcomed APEC’s work in areas such as trade security, aviation security, protection of energy infrastructure, countering terrorism financing, fighting cyberterrorism, protecting the food supply against terrorist contamination, and emergency preparedness. The United States also led capacity-building work to counter biological and chemical terrorism, completing a joint pilot project with Peru to implement the APEC Food Defense Principles. The United States promoted APEC efforts to counter terrorist financing and to help member economies implement the Financial Action Task Force Special Recommendations on Terrorist Financing. Lastly, the United States actively supported APEC initiatives to strengthen aviation, land, and maritime security, and support trade recovery following an attack.
OAS Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE). CICTE operates as the counterterrorism policy body for the hemisphere, with its experts representing and advising the 34 member state governments on how to meet the requirements of the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, UN Security Council Resolutions (especially 1373, 1267, and 1540), and the Inter-American Convention against Terrorism (IACAT).
At the Ninth Regular Session of CICTE in March 2009 in Washington DC, the member states adopted the Declaration of Strengthening Border Controls and International Cooperation in the Fight Against Terrorism. The declaration acknowledged that terrorism constitutes a grave threat to the lives, well-being, and fundamental freedoms of all people; threatens international peace and security; it undermines the values and principles underlying the inter-American system, democratic institutions, and the freedoms enshrined in and promoted by the Charter of the OAS, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and other international instruments. The CICTE Ministers also reaffirmed:
In 2009, the Secretariat received more than US$ 3.9 million in voluntary contributions from member states. It conducted 71 activities, training courses and technical assistance missions, which benefited more than 2,800 participants through nine programs in five areas: border control, critical infrastructure protection, counterterrorism legislative assistance and terrorist financing, crisis management of emerging terrorist threats, and international cooperation and partnerships. Key achievements included the development of new methodologies — workshops on best practices and crisis management exercises — and the expansion of international partnerships.
LONG-TERM PROGRAMS/ACTIONS DESIGNED TO REDUCE CONDITIONS THAT ALLOW TERRORIST SAFE HAVENS TO FORM
The Antiterrorism Assistance Program (ATA) provides partner nations with the training, equipment, and technology needed to increase their capabilities to find and arrest terrorists. ATA training builds the kind of cooperation and interactivity between law enforcement officers that has a lasting impact. During fiscal year 2009, the State Department delivered more than 412 training activities and technical consultations, and trained more than 5,900 participants from 75 countries. Over the course of its 25-year existence, ATA has trained more than 66,800 students from 159 countries, providing programs tailored to the needs of each partner nation.
ATA training subjects include:
All courses emphasized advanced law enforcement techniques under the rule of law. Successful ATA programs include:
Afghanistan: ATA’s success with the training of the Presidential Protective Service (PPS), responsible for the safety of President Hamid Karzai, has lead to a request from Afghanistan to implement training for Detachment 10 (D-10). D-10 is responsible for the protection of VIPs outside of the scope of the PPS. ATA will begin teaching VIP techniques to D-10 in FY10.
In 2009, a notable example of a recent PPS program success was when President Karzai requested that a rescue team be sent to his brother-in-law’s residence to rescue the brother-in-law and his family. An ATA trained and equipped counter-assault team (CAT) arrived at the site and observed an individual dressed in an Afghan National Police uniform on the rooftop. This individual was firing his weapon and the CAT team assumed he was firing at insurgents. Once the individual noticed the CAT team, he threw a grenade at them and began firing at the CAT team. A CAT team member engaged the target and the motorcade was repositioned in order to better protect Karzai’s family, as they were moved to the motorcade and transported to a safe location. No members of Karzai’s family or the CAT team were injured.
Colombia: The acting director of the Colombian Anti-Kidnapping School and the director of the Colombian National Police training facility acknowledged the support provided by DS/T/ATA in the establishment of the school. Both directors attributed much of the 90 percent reduction in kidnappings since 2003 to ATA training conducted at the Sibate training facility. The knowledge and techniques, as well as equipment donated, by the ATA Program were recognized as crucial elements in the Colombian government’s successful campaign against kidnapping and extortion.
Indonesia: The ATA trained and equipped tactical units of Detachment 88 (Det 88), which have arrested and participated in the adjudication of more than 400 terrorist suspects. Det 88 units participated in a combined raid on a suspected terrorist safe house in Solo, Central Java. During the raid, Noordin M. Top, the most-wanted Jemaah Islamiya (JI) terrorist who had eluded capture for nine years, was killed. Top is considered the mastermind behind the July 17, 2009, hotel bombings of the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Jakarta, and for a string of other deadly attacks in Indonesia. Additional JI extremists were also arrested and 200 kilograms of explosives material was confiscated during the raid.
Mexico: Due to the increasing amount of violence against high-level Mexican government officials, ATA has provided a continuing series of VIP Protection courses in Mexico for the Office of the Attorney General, the Secretariat of Public Security, and other high-level Mexican officials. In 2009, ATA began increasing assistance to the Government of Mexico by hiring a Resident Program Manager who will oversee all aspects of the Mexico ATA program.
Pakistan: On September 12, ATA-trained Pakistani police officers from the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of the Peshawar Police were on routine patrol in a North West Frontier Province semi-tribal area. The officers stopped a pickup truck with four men and two women. Both women were wearing burkas but were observed to be wearing men’s shoes. The ATS officers became suspicious and ordered the women to remove their burkas. Upon removing their burkas, the ATS officers found two police officers from the ATS Peshawar, who had been kidnapped by the Dara Adam Khel Taliban. The ATS officers arrested the four suspects in the vehicle, who were attempting to transport the abducted police officers from the tribal area to a semi-tribal area.
Philippines: Members of an ATA-trained Philippine National Police Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit (EOD) responded to a report of abandoned hand grenades next to a children’s playground in Central Mindanao, Philippines. The EOD unit discovered three unexploded fragmentation hand grenades lying in a grassy area near the playground. After the area was made safe, the ATA-trained EOD technician conducted a controlled destruction of the unexploded grenades using prescribed explosive/disposal materials.
Terrorist Interdiction Program/Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System Program (TIP/PISCES). TIP/PISCES FY2009 funding of US$ 10,000,000 sustained, upgraded, and expanded TIP/PISCES system capabilities in the following 17 countries: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cote D’Ivoire, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iraq, Kenya, Kosovo, Macedonia, Malta, Pakistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia. The program helped countries at risk of terrorist activity enhance their border security capabilities by providing a computerized watch-listing system and training that enable host nations to identify suspect travelers. U.S. agreements for providing this equipment and training included provisions for sharing information gathered at borders and other international entry points. TIP/PISCES processes an estimated 150,000 travelers every day.
Counterterrorist Finance Training (CTFT). The Deputy Coordinator for Programs of the Department of the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Crime in the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs co-chair the interagency Terrorist Finance Working Group (TFWG). TFWG meets biweekly or on an ad-hoc basis to develop, coordinate, and review U.S. government global Counterterrorist Finance (CTF) capacity-building initiatives intended to deter, disrupt, and interdict the flow of funds to terrorist organizations and their allies in criminal syndicates.
TFWG has established CTF capacity building programs in countries in each of the Department’s six regional bureaus, but the primary focus has been on countries where the illicit finance threat is highest. Accordingly, in coordination with the interagency Illicit Finance Task Force (IFTF), which is led by the Department of Treasury under the guidance of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, CTF programs are being expanded in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Both countries currently lack the legal, regulatory, and institutional capacity to deal effectively with the growing threat of terrorist and other illicit financing being used to fund al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and Lashkar e-Tayyiba. TFWG and IFTF’s Capacity-Building Working Group (CBWG) have also sought to partner with Gulf countries to further expand training and technical assistance in the legal, financial regulatory, financial intelligence, financial investigation, prosecutorial, judicial, and asset forfeiture fields. The goal is to deny terrorists access to funding from donors and facilitators in the Gulf and restrict their use of the formal and informal financial systems of the region.
The roles and responsibilities of the five Department of Justice Resident Legal Advisors (RLAs) were expanded with bilateral and regional responsibilities. The RLAs have conducted training workshops, assisted with the drafting of laws and regulations, and conducted outreach to parliamentarians.
TFWG has worked closely with the Department of Homeland Security and interagency partners to expand bulk cash smuggling training programs. This included conducting a highly successful Regional Operational Cash Courier Training program in South East Asia and bulk cash smuggling training in a variety of countries, including Nigeria and Iraq.
Countering Violent Extremism
To counter violent extremism, the U.S. government is developing a better understanding of the dynamics of the communities in which violent extremism has taken root. Every at-risk community possesses unique “upstream” political, economic, and social factors that can contribute to the radicalization process. For this reason, one-size-fits-all programs have limited appeal. Instead, programs must be tailored to fit the characteristics of the audience. “Micro-strategies” customized for specific communities, and even neighborhoods, have a better chance of succeeding and enduring.
The State Department is working to address the local drivers of radicalization that can lead large numbers of young people to be vulnerable to al-Qaida’s ideology. We are also working both to undermine the al-Qaida narrative and to address the political, economic, and social conditions that al-Qaida and other violent extremists exploit in their drive to recruit. The State Department recognizes that violent extremism can flourish where there is marginalization, alienation, and perceived – or real – relative deprivation. In recognition of this, the Bureau of Counterterrorism has staffed a unit to focus on local communities most prone to radicalization.
In many cases, Muslims have more credibility than the U.S. government in addressing these issues in their own communities. They are the ones best placed to convey effective counter-narratives capable of discrediting violent extremism in a way that makes sense to their local community, and only they have the credibility to counter the religious claims made by violent extremists. The U.S. government is working to identify reliable partners and amplify those credible Muslim voices. The United States can help empower these local actors through programmatic assistance, funding, or by simply providing them with space – physical or electronic – to challenge violent extremist views. Non-traditional actors such as NGOs, religious leaders, foundations, and private businesses are some of the most capable and credible partners in local communities. Therefore, the U.S. government is boosting its outreach efforts to engage with such organizations. The U.S. government and partner nations are also seeking to develop greater understanding of the linkages between diaspora communities and countries of ancestry. Through familial and business networks, events that affect one community have an impact in the other.
The State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism implements a number of innovative CVE programs. The Ambassadors Fund for Counterterrorism marries law enforcement and public diplomacy approaches. It supports projects proposed by Embassies that enhance the ability of local law enforcement personnel to deter terrorism, by applying the tools of soft power and supporting USG efforts to counter violent extremist ideology and recruitment. Up to US$ 100,000 is provided in micro-grants to embassies for projects. In FY2009, 17 projects were funded, including projects in Iraq, Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Philippines, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Peru.
The International Information Programs Bureau in the Undersecretary’s Office of Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy has enhanced and expanded its innovative Digital Outreach Team. This team of native Arabic, Persian, and Urdu speakers actively engaged on highly-trafficked mainstream news sites and Internet discussion forums in those languages. Identifying themselves as representing the State Department, they directly counter online arguments that defend goals and tactics of violent extremists, in particular al-Qa’ida and the Taliban. They have found that in many if not most cases, their interlocutors even welcome the opportunity to engage with official U.S. representatives. These discussions have generated thousands of hits at a time on popular websites such as al-Jazeera Talk. In the last three years, the team has posted more than 6,000 online messages, including YouTube videos on U.S. foreign policy, religious freedom in America, and U.S. cooperation with Muslim communities around the world, which generated more than 500,000 hits.
In 2009, the Special Representative to Muslim Communities met with civil society leaders at the grassroots level in 11 countries in every region of the globe. Focusing particularly on young people, she is working to create partnerships with civil society and seeking out those who are pushing back against violent extremism to amplify their voices and connect them to other like-minded thinkers who can inspire positive change. Because reaching young people requires operating in the spaces that young people choose to occupy, the State Department is increasingly using online and mobile technology to empower credible Muslim voices who can provide an alternative, positive counter-narrative to the negative voices of extremism young people face online.
The Middle East Partnership Initiative
The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), which is located within the Department of State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, seeks to build a vibrant partnership between the United States and citizens of the Middle East to support the development of more prosperous, successful, participatory, pluralistic societies at peace within themselves and with their neighbors. MEPI projects mainly support civil society, the private sector, and academic institutions in their efforts to enhance citizens’ economic, social, and political empowerment; expand opportunities for women and youth; and help communities participate together with governments in shaping their own futures. MEPI assists indigenous efforts to expand political participation, strengthen the rule of law, empower women and youth, expand educational opportunities, and foster entrepreneurship and economic reform throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Through its Washington headquarters and Regional Offices in Abu Dhabi and Tunis, MEPI has contributed over US$ 530 million to more than 600 projects in 17 countries and territories since its establishment in 2002.
One third of the Middle East’s population is under the age of 15 years. Integrating this vast youth cohort into society as productive adults is a key challenge for regional stability, as well as regional prosperity. Without education, employment and civic engagement that enable youth to become articulate, engaged, and productive members of society, the region will continue to be marked by limited economic prospects, high unemployment, illiteracy, and even less innovation and capital investment, with more youth potentially falling prey to the appeal of extremist rhetoric. MEPI works to target this youth population through programming across a range of issue-areas, from English literacy to volunteerism programs, from vocational training to support for entrepreneurship.
MEPI is not a counterterrorism program, but a program dedicated to building effective partnerships with the citizens of the Middle East on behalf of a better future. Its work to support local agents of change in the Middle East and North Africa helps contribute to improvements in social cohesion, economic development, civil discourse, and responsive governance. These, in turn, help to address some of the underlying conditions that have been associated with violent extremism.
Giving People a Voice In Their Future
Developing Economic Opportunity
Increasing Opportunities For Youth